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Rice, Berrian didn't step up for Vikings

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Posted Nov. 17, 2010 @ 7:13 p.m. ET
By Eric Edholm

There are a lot of suspicious Vikings fans right now.

They have seen their team lose two games for every one they have won this season and are wondering why such a talented roster is being thoroughly outplayed a majority of the time.

Now, no one is beyond reproach, save for Adrian Peterson, who always gives maximum effort. The coach is in Dante's Inferno. The quarterback has a new injury every week and already seems to be plotting his exit, spiritual or otherwise. The defensive line, once the pillar of strength, has been the team's most disappointing unit.

So right when the walls are caving around them, Sidney Rice is slow to return from injury and Bernard Berrian suddenly comes up lame with a hamstring injury.

It's hard not to argue with the timing of these separate events.

There was talk about Rice wanting to cash in on a new deal at the end of last season, and he already irked some people at Winter Park for delaying his hip surgery until August for an injury he suffered in late January. It's only natural that when Rice is cleared to play and only has to tell the coaches he's ready to go that having him delay the process is going to lead to more speculation.

As for Berrian, his motives would be unknown. He already has been paid a princely sum to be such an under-producing receiver. But whatever the motivation, Berrian deserves the rancor. He bailed on his team less than 90 minutes before game time when, had he said something earlier, he could have been replaced by a player with special-teams value. It's no shock that the Vikings were torched three times by Devin Hester on returns essentially playing a man short. Or that Favre really had no one to throw to when Percy Harvin went down late in the game.

It's almost silly to say that the Vikings need these guys this week against the Packers because they are 3-6 and probably not even coming within a whiff of the postseason. They needed them last week, when the team could have gotten to within a win of .500 and the bulk of their conference and divisional games in front of them.

Want to know why the Vikings have struggled? Too much of this kind of thing happening this season. Too many distractions. A pervasive belief that the team is better than it is.

Rice has vehemently denied that his health is tied to his future contract. Berrian was angered that Brett Favre said his game-day no-show was related to a sore hamstring. But both have taken back-channel ways of getting that message out and haven't stood up to the media (and, transitively, the fans) to explain their situations directly.

Maybe both were too hurt to play. It's possible. But for a team as desperate for wins as the players say they are, you'd think Rice and Berrian would do whatever it took to help the Vikings out.

They didn't and the team is left to wonder, what if? It's probably too late to do much about it now.

They didn't step up for their team, so why should their team step up for them next year?

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